Andrew Alli: Helping Unlock a Continent of Opportunity
Africa is still in desperate need of investment. The World Bank estimates that Africa requires $93 billion annually for the upkeep and expansion of its infrastructure. With governments the world over slashing foreign aid budgets, the pressure is growing to secure more funding locally. Providing those homegrown investments is the mission of Andrew Alli, CEO of the Africa Finance Corporation (AFC).
Nigerian-born Andrew Alli originally studied engineering in the UK but moved to accountancy and management while working at Coopers & Lybrand, the company that would later become PWC. After obtaining his MBA in 1995 at INSEAD business school in France, Mr Alli travelled the world as an investment officer for the International Finance Corporation (IFC), part of the World Bank Group.
However, in 2002 Mr Alli returned to Nigeria to take up the position of IFC country manager. Four years later, he was to move again; this time to South Africa. Same function, different country: His experience in Africa’s financial world gained considerable depth. This made Mr Alli the top candidate for the top job at the Africa Finance Corporation where he took over in 2008.
The AFC is a finance organization set up by a number of West African nations on the basis of a multilateral treaty celebrated to forge closer cooperation between the signatory countries. The corporation is entrusted with the mission to generate investments destined for major infrastructure projects throughout the continent.
“Mr Alli and his AFC are in the business of sustaining the continent’s momentum.”
Operating out of its head office in Lagos, the AFC is now majority owned by private sector shareholders (57.5%). The remainder of shares is held by the Nigerian central bank. Under Mr Alli’s leadership, AFC has been involved in projects all over the continent. From wind farms in Cape Verde, which now supply over 25% of that country’s energy demand, and a toll bridge in Ivory Coast to an undersea fibre-optic cable running from Portugal all the way to South Africa with hookups to a number of places along Africa’s west coast.
Part of AFC’s mission is to do the financial and regulatory engineering that is required for any project that aims to attract the attention of foreign investors. The challenge AFC faces is that many infrastructure projects lack bankability. While these undertakings are often very attractive as far as projected returns on capital are concerned, they lack the regulatory framework that ensures the minimization of political risk and compliance with contemporary accounting and regulatory standards.
AFC aims to provide these assurances through cooperation with national governments. The corporation also helps develop comprehensive business plans and provides authorities and other stakeholders with the knowledge and experience needed to successfully pitch projects to outside investors.
Africa is on to go and rising fast. The continent suffers no shortage of exciting – and potentially exceedingly profitable – opportunities. Risks may be slightly higher than elsewhere, but so are expected returns. Mr Alli and his AFC are in the business of sustaining the continent’s momentum. Should the push required to do that come from within Africa, so much the better. It’s called pulling oneself up by the bootstraps.